Friday, February 7, 2014

North West Cape incident - some further research notes

Hi all,


In a recent post ( click here)  I brought readers up to date with the "cold case" research that Melbourne researcher Paul Dean, and I have been conducting into the important 25 October 1973 incident at the US Navy Base at North West Cape, Western Australia.

This post provides details of some further research that we have been undertaking on the case, in conjunction with a Sydney based research associate, who prefers to remain anonymous. We wish to thank them for their contribution to the research.

G J Odgers:

After hearing from New South Wales  researcher Moira McGhee, that she had received the North West Cape documents from Henry Ross Rayner, who was the Director of Public Relations for the Department of Defence, in 1973, the year of the North West Cape incident, it occurred to me to take a look at the Public Relations organisational structure at the Department of Defence (DOD) at that time.

As well as a Director of Public Relations, DOD, there was also a head of Public Relations for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1973. We know this for a fact, as RAAF letters to Western Australian witnesses to Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS) in October 1973, were signed by a G J Odgers, Director of Public Relations. (Source: National Archives of Australia file series A 703, control symbol 580/1/1 Part 33.)

I located the following information about George James Odgers:

"In 1965 Odgers became the head of Public Relations for the Department of Air and subsequently the RAAF. He held the position until 1975 when he became Director of Historical Studies and Information in the Department of Defence." (Source: Dennis, Peter et al. 1995. "Odgers, George James." The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History. Melbourne. Oxford University Press. p.441.)

It seems reasonable to assume that Rayner and Odgers knew each other, at least professionally. After all, Odgers took over Rayner's old job when Rayner moved to the Director of Public Relations, DOD.

It would also appear reasonable to suggest that if Rayner, in the 1974/1975 time frame that McGhee stated she received the documents, was looking for some RAAF UAS cases to pass to McGhee, that he would have sought them through Odgers - public relations officer to public relations officer. It should be recalled that it was the RAAF which was the sole Australian government agency charged to process reports of UAS.

Given the above, I thought it worth while to check if G J Odgers were still alive, in order to ask him whether or not he had any personal knowledge of these North West Cape documents. Unfortunately, my research showed that Odgers had passed away in 2008.

Date of UFOIC receipt of the documents:

We know from Moira McGhee that she was a member of the Sydney based group, UFOIC, at the time she received the documents. Looking to independently confirm this, our Sydney based research associate examined copies of the UFOIC Newsletter. No mention was found of Moira McGhee and receipt of the North West Cape documents in the Newsletter .However, issue 50 dated January-February 1977 did include that "We are pleased to announce that three new investigators joined UFOIC...Ms Moira McGhee." Therefore all we have to go on is that Moira stated that receipt of the documents was in 1974/1975. (Source: Telephone conversation between Moira and Keith Basterfield, 18 January 2013.)

What is Bill Chalker's recollection of when he saw the documents? Bill's memory is that it was around 1975. Looking for independent confirmation, our Sydney research associate found the following in issue 43 of the UFOIC Newsletter, dated April-May 1975: "The President and Committee would like to welcome a new committee member, Mr W C Chalker, BSc (Hons). Mr Chalker is now resident in Sydney." Thus 1975 fits.

So, overall, it would appear that Moira received the documents in 1974/1975 and Bill saw them in 1975.

Timing of the Defcon three alert:

In his 1996 book, "The Oz Files," (Duffy & Snellgrove. Potts Point. ISBN 1-875989-04-8) researcher Bill Chalker provides a write up of the North West Cape incident, on pages 154-159. Part of the write up refers to:

"A full nuclear alert went out to all US Forces. North-West Cape was used to communicate the alert to both conventional and nuclear forces in the region. Local time at North-West Cape was around early evening. It was then that an intruder was spotted in the airspace over the base." (p.155.)

This suggests that the alert and the UAP sighting were fairly close in time.

However, since the publication of Bill's book, US Government documents relating to the Defcon 3 alert have become available on the Internet. (click here.) Here we find that the alert was given in Washington DC at 0430hrs z on 25 October 1973. The z indicates Zulu time, or Greenwich Mean Time, not 0430 hours local Washington time. It would have been 2330hrs local time on 24 October 1973 in Washington.

What local time was it at North West Cape? It was 1230hrs on 25 October 1973, and not "around early evening" as Bill's book suggests.

Thus, based on the evidence above, the alert was almost seven hours earlier than the UAP sighting, and not the almost simultaneous timing that Bill originally suggested. I raised this issue with Bill by email and he responded that the 2330hrs 24 October Washington timing contradicts an account he found in Alistair Homes book 2009 book titled  "Kissinger's Year 1973." page 300 which refers to the small hours of the morning on 25 October.

On the basis of original documentation which we all can read, I believe the 1230hrs local time at North West Cape is the most probable timing of the alert. Thus the UAP sighting was some seven hours after the alert was issued.

Further discussions with the Pearce RAAF Base UAS officer from 1973:

In an earlier post  I reported on discussions between Melbourne based researcher Paul Dean and the occupant of the position of UAS officer in 1973 at Pearce RAAF Base in Western Australia. In an initial discussion between the two, the UAS officer, Pyers, advised he had no knowledge of the North West Cape incident. Subsequent to that initial conversation, Paul Dean sent a copy of the North West Cape incident documents to Pyers for him to examine. Paul recently spoke again to Pyers. We have Pyers' permission to report on their conversation.

Pyers confirmed that he had received and examined the documents, and stated that he had been at Pearce from 1971-1976 as a search and rescue pilot. He was the UAS officer for about two years. He definitely had never seen the North West Cape incident documents, until Paul sent them to him. Reading the documents had him stumped for an explanation for the object reported. Paul asked him if he thought it could have been a flock of birds? Pyers didn't think so. Pyers stated that while the Pearce UAS officer he never saw a UAS case which stumped him, while on this duty or at any other time while in the RAAF.

How did the RAAF learn of the incident?

Given that the witnesses to this sighting were serving in the US Navy at a US Navy base on Australian soil, and that the most likely RAAF Officer to have processed the reports (Pyers at the Pearce RAAF base) says that he never saw anything about the incident, how did the RAAF learn about the incident?

Our Sydney research associate contacted me to let me know that in Desmond Ball's 1980 book titled "A Suitable Piece of Real Estate: American Installations in Australia" Ball mentions that Area B (where one of the witnesses was) of the North West Cape base had a direct link to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in Canberra. However, this was in 1980, not 1973. Was there a RAN officer at the North West Cape base in 1973? It seems there was.

In the 9 August 1973 issue of the Canberra Times newspaper (click here) there is mention of one Australian liaison officer at the base, and in the Canberra Times newspaper of the 10 March 1973, it specifically mentions a RAN Liaison Officer (click here.)

It would appear most likely, that the witnesses reported their sightings to US Naval authorities who advised the RAN liaison officer, who transmitted their details to RAN Canberra. As RAN Canberra would be aware that the reporting procedure for UAS was to forward them to the RAAF, this is how the RAAF became aware of the incident.

The Americans investigated:

In Bill's 1996 book, in the section on the North West Cape incident, on page 150 there is a sentence "The Americans investigated the two sightings.." As our Sydney research associate pointed out to us, there was no such mention in Bill's original 1985 article, about the incident, in Omega magazine. I therefore queried Bill about this statement about an American investigation. His response was that it appears to have been inserted by his book editor. Bill further advised that he had no evidence that the Americans had investigated the sightings.

In summary:

Our research now indicates that:

1. The object sighted at North-West Cape on the 25 October 1973 was most likely seen about seven hours after the US military Defcon3 alert, and not almost at the same time, as suggested in Bill Chalker's 1996 book.

2. There is no evidence that the Americans investigated the sightings. Though our Sydney research associate suggests it should have been reported through the US military system in accordance with JANAP 146.

3. There is a difficulty in reconciling the time of the event reported by both witnesses, and the sky conditions, given the time of  sunset that night. See earlier posts for details.

4. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the RAAF's "Unit Evaluation" portion of their proformas, to see what they concluded the object was. Neither the evaluation; the first three pages, or the witnesses' written statements are to be found on the A703 files series, control symbol 580/1/1 RAAF UAS files currently held by the National Archives of Australia.

All in all, a tantalising report by US Naval personnel at a US Naval base on Australian soil, which we are unlikely to be able to further analyse, unless we can either locate further original documentation; or living individuals with personal knowledge of the event.

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